How to Change Air Compressor Oil

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Much like most tools, air compressors also need oil to function properly. Some oil compressors may have different ways of changing oil. However, the basic way of changing oil should apply to most air compressors. Here’s how to change air compressor oil so it can work effectively.

How to Change Air Compressor Oil

Changing the oil on your air compressor is quite easy. As long as you have the necessary tools like:

  • Drain pan
  • Funnel
  • Cleaning rags
  • Socket or wrench

Before you start applying the regular way to change oil, make sure that your air compressor requires oil to operate. Some air compressors are oilless, so you probably won’t need to use oil.

You also have to check the manual and see if the product has a specific method for changing oil. If it does, you should follow it instead. The manual may specify a specific type of compressor oil that you should follow.

A close-image of Castor motor oil that can be used for air compressor

To change air compressor oil, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure to warm the air compressor to also warm the oil. This will make it easier for the oil to flow more freely from the pump. You can do this by running the air compressor or letting it sit in the sun.
  2. Open the fill port so the air can easily flow down into the sump. 
  3. Place your pan or funnel under the pump end of your air compressor to help drain the oil.
  4. Remove the oil drain plug and let the oil collect in the pan. You can use the funnel to help contain the oil and flow directly to your pan since it’s so hot.
  5. You can also lift the compressor to drain out any remaining oil inside. Although this is an optional step. You should also be careful when handling the hot compressor.
  6. Replace the drain plug with a new one and check for leaks. You can also wipe out any oil residue with cleaning rags.
  7. Find the oil fill cap. It may also be a breather on the pump, depending on the style. Fill the pump slowly until full level with your air compressor oil.
  8. Replacer the fill cup or breather on your pump, and you’re done.

The Different Air Compressor Oils You Can Choose

  • Synthetic hydrocarbons (POAs) – are the most common oil you can find and are mostly used in industrial air compressors. The oil is derived from ethylene which is commonly found in natural gas and petroleum. It’s the best versatile air compressor oil option.
  • Polyol esters (POEs) – are also commonly used in most air compressors. The oil is based on alcohol and carboxylic acid.They can handle high heat and can last long. However, they can be damaging to paint finishes and some rubber or plastic components.
  • Polyglycols (PAGs) – are non-petroleum synthetic lubricants. They’re not that used much since they might damage air compressors if mixed with other lubricants.
  • Blended oil – is the least recommended oil to use since it can harm your compressor. Hence, you need to change it more often compared to other oils.

Oil Types and What’s Best For You

The usual oil types used in air compressors are air compressor oil and motor oil. Make sure you use oil that is compatible with your air compressor like motor oil. They usually have special benefits for it, like added protection from wear and tear, cooling properties, and reduced chances of water contamination.

Compared to motor oil, air compressor oil doesn’t contain detergents because it can emulsify with water. This will make the draining process harder because the oil won’t settle at the bottom to be quickly drained out.

Hence, you should prefer using compressor oil all the time to avoid any complications later down the road. More specifically, you should check your air compressor model and what the manufacturer recommends to know what oil to use.

Frequency for Air Compressor Oil Change

For reference, you should change your air compressor oil at least once a year. Treat your air compressor much like your car when it comes to maintenance. You can also refer to the manual that comes along with your air compressor and check the frequency of changing oil.

If you use your air compressor regularly, you should change the oil more frequently.  Generally, you should change oil every 6 to 12 months, depending on usage.

Remember, the more you use your air compressor, the more times you would also need to change the oil. Another way to determine if you need an oil change is by checking the oil level every time you use the air compressor.

Reasons You Need to Change Oil

The purpose of compressor oil is to lubricate the moving components and also to keep them cool so the motor won’t overheat. If you feel like the air compressor is not functioning in these things, then it is time to change the oil.

An image of different motor oil that you can use when you change your air compressor oil

Compressor oil also acts as a sealant. This means it keeps your air compressor working effectively by preventing air leakage. If you don’t change the oil, your compressor might not work as you expected it should.

Oil also keeps the parts in good working condition. It helps prevent rust and friction, which can wear and tear the components of your air compressor.

Synthetic vs Conventional Compressor Oil

Conventional compressor oil is generally less costly in short term. However, it may have bad effects in the long run and may even increase your maintenance cost. Nowadays, most people would use synthetic over conventional compressor oil.

For starters, synthetic oil is better for protection against wear and tear and keeping your components cool under operation. Synthetic oil is also better at handling cold temperatures without losing its effectiveness.

If you can find a good synthetic compressor oil, better get it since it will improve overall maintenance. You would only use conventional compressor oil if you have run out of options for changing oil since not changing oil at all would do more damage.

Related Questions

How Much Oil Should I Put In My Air Compressor?

If your air compressor has a sight glass, you would want the oil level to be at the center of the dot. Anything over it means you added too much oil, while anything less would put the oil level under the dot.

What Happens if You Overfill Air Compressor Oil?

If you put too much oil, the oil might be whipped, and then it will foam up. This will cause it to lose some of its lubricating properties, making it less effective in keeping your air compressor cool and protected.


Changing your air compressor as part of its maintenance to keep it in good condition. You need to keep track of when to change oil and you should know how to properly change the oil from your compressor.